‘Hollywood Icon’ Exhibit in Bath

Bikini from ‘The Misfits’, 1960 (photo by Eve Arnold)

Marilyn – Hollywood Icon

12 March – 31 October 2011

“Unlike other ‘Marilyn’ exhibitions of recent years, the American Museum’s 50th anniversary extravaganza will be packed full of costumes actually worn by Monroe.  The twenty costumes on display are not replicas but the real thing – just like the lady herself.  These include:

·   The pink ‘wiggle’ dress from Niagara (1952) – Marilyn’s first major role that established her ‘blonde bombshell’ image.

·   The red sequined gown she wore in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

·   The green show costume Marilyn wore in Bus Stop (1956)

·   The iconic cocktail dress from Some Like It Hot (1959) in which Marilyn crooned ‘I’m Through With Love’.

·   The bikini she wore in The Misfits (1961), her last completed film.

Personal items owned by Monroe will also be exhibited here for the first time in the UK.  Poignantly, these include the silver ring given to the star by her disturbed mother, Gladys, who spent most of her life in metal institutions – as did Marilyn’s grandparents.

All of the costumes and objects on display at the American Museum are part of the David Gainsborough Roberts Collection, an extraordinary gathering of celebrity memorabilia created during the past twenty years.”

Liz Smith on Playboy, Oates and ‘Blonde’

“Ms. Oates wrote a massive semi-fiction about Marilyn some years back, titled Blonde, which is now being made into a film with Naomi Watts. The author (like Norman Mailer before her) didn’t see the harm in mixing truth and illusion, the better to ‘grasp’ the illusive Monroe. Blonde was brilliant, fascinating, messy, confusing, not always truthful. Perhaps like the subject herself.

And in her Playboy piece, Oates just gets it wrong, factually, several times, though she obviously has affection for her subject. I mean, to say that Jane Russell –marvelous though she is – was an ‘A’ list star compared to Marilyn, ‘always on the B-list,’ is simply incorrect. Oates also writes that Marilyn tried to set up a production company but: ‘nothing seemed to come of it.’ Yeah, hiring Laurence Olivier to costar in the Marilyn Monroe Productions film The Prince and the Showgirl was ‘nothing.’ (Marilyn did triumph over the system, much to Hollywood’s rage; the problem was she couldn’t sustain her victory.)

Sigh! Ms. Oates is a fine, sensitive writer. The memory of Marilyn has been treated worse, that’s for sure. Still, pick up Fragments and let this mythical, lost lady speak for herself.”

Liz Smith, WowOWow

Marilyn and Simone in Scotland

Bruce Davidson, 1960

While filming Let’s Make Love in 1960, Marilyn Monroe lived with husband Arthur Miller in a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Monroe’s co-star, Yves Montand, stayed next door with his wife, the French actress Simone Signoret.

The Millers and the Montands were good friends, but their lives were shattered when Marilyn and Yves had a very public affair.

But Signoret never blamed Marilyn for the ensuing scandal, and the dynamic between these two women is now the subject of a play, Marilyn, by Scottish dramatist Sue Glover, to be performed at the Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, next February, and at the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, in March.

“Nobody ever said Lady Macbeth was a brunette…

Holding a mirror up to the notion of stardom, the myth of the blonde bombshell and the pressure of fame, Marilyn offers a glimpse into the private life of one of popular culture’s most iconic women.

1960. Marilyn Monroe is staying in the Beverly Hills Hotel with her husband, Arthur Miller, while preparing to film Let’s Make Love.

In the apartment opposite, the great French actress Simone Signoret waits for her husband Yves Montand, to return from the studio.

Both successful actresses in their own right, the women form an uneasy friendship under the watchful eye of Patti, hairdresser to the stars. But it will become a friendship that will test their deepest beliefs and will threaten to destroy them both.

This new play by Sue Glover, best known for the Scottish classic Bondagers, is an intimate portrait of the life of one of the 20th century’s most enigmatic film stars.”

After Bonnie Greer’s Marilyn and Ella, Sunny Thompson’s one-woman show Marilyn: Forever Blonde, and with a new movie, My Week With Marilyn, now in the works, using episodes of Monroe’s life as a basis for drama is currently more popular than ever.

As with all MM-related fiction, the quality of this play will depend on the depth of Glover’s research and sensitivity towards the subject, and the subtlety of its production.

To get a flavour of Glover’s Marilyn, read an interview with director Howard Miller in the Herald Scotland today.

Marilyn and Clifford Odets

‘Clash by Night’ (1952)

One of Marilyn Monroe’s strongest early film roles was as Peggy, the feisty cannery worker in Clash by Night (1952), based on a play by Clifford Odets.

Marilyn knew Odets quite well and later played Lorna Moon in a scene from his most famous play, Golden Boy, at the Actor’s Studio during the late 1950s. She later considered starring in Odets’ screenplay, The Story on Page One (1959), but that role went to Rita Hayworth, and was directed by Odets himself.

Always competitive with Miller, Odets took a rather dim view of The Misfits (1960), Monroe’s last completed film, which Miller wrote and John Huston directed.

Odets was the leading New York playwright of the 1930s and 40s, and his plays focussed on social injustice and the plight of the ‘little man’. He was also involved in the formation of the Group Theatre alongside Lee Strasberg.

Unlike Arthur Miller, the playwright who ultimately eclipsed him, Odets chose to ‘name names’ in the House Un-American Activities Committee trials of the early 1950s, a decision he would bitterly regret. He died in 1963.

In his essay on Monroe in the book, Who the Hell’s in It, director Peter Bogdanovich recalled, ‘Clifford told me that Marilyn Monroe used to come over to his house and talk, but that the only times she seemed to him really comfortable were when she was with his two young children and their large poodle. She relaxed with them, felt no threat. With everyone else, Odets said, she seemed nervous, intimidated, frightened. When I repeated to Miller this remark about her with children and animals, he said, “Well, they didn’t sneer at her.'”

Soon after Monroe’s death, Odets wrote, ‘One night some short weeks ago, for the first time in her not always happy life, Marilyn Monroe’s soul sat down alone to a quiet supper from which it did not rise. If they tell you that she died of sleeping pills you must know that she died of a wasting grief, of a slow bleeding at the soul.’

One of Odets’ later plays, The Country Girl (filmed in 1954 with Grace Kelly) is currently being revived in London. Walt Odets has spoken to the Jewish Chronicle about his famous father and his memories, and mentioned, rather unfavourably, the marriage of Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe:

“The Strasberg version of the marriage was that Arthur treated Marilyn badly. So I grew up with bad feelings about Miller. I met Arthur a few times and he was a very hard, cold man. He was the kind of guy who doesn’t like children or dogs. And for a child that is immediately perceptible.”

The Kennedy Detail

Former FBI agent Gerald Blaine, one of the security staff who witnessed the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, is the author of a new book, The Kennedy Detail, which is also the title of an upcoming Discovery Channel documentary.

Regarding the rumour that Kennedy had an affair with Marilyn Monroe, Blaine says that there were only two occasions on which they were known to be together – on May 19, 1962 after she sang ‘Happy Birthday’ at his 45th birthday celebration in New York, and once the previous year, at the home of his sister and brother-in-law, Patricia and Peter Lawford.

Mr Blaine says Monroe attended a party after the birthday celebration at the Carlyle Hotel – but left before the other guests.

The Australian

Bruce Conner’s ‘Marilyn Times Five’

Arline Hunter

Bruce Conner was an avant-garde artist, and his work has been celebrated in a new documentary, Bruce Conner: The Art of Montage. The film includes a short clip called ‘Marilyn Times Five’, which purportedly shows a semi-naked Monroe, fondling – wait for it – an apple, and a Coca Cola bottle.

However, it has long since been established that the woman in the clip is not Monroe, but actress and glamour model Arline Hunter.

James Haspiel, who got to know Monroe as a teenage fan, is now considered an expert on the actress. In his 1991 book, Marilyn: The Ultimate Look at the Legend, Haspiel noted that Hunter had recreated Marilyn’s famous nude calendar pose for Playboy in 1954. Hunter had appeared in several ‘stag films’, which were falsely marketed as featuring a young Monroe.

Marilyn in court, 1952

Marilyn had appeared in court in 1952 to testify that pornographic photos sold by mail order were not of her. These pictures, too, were of Hunter.

Haspiel noted that one of Hunter’s blue movies, The Apple-Knockers and the Coke, was screened in a New York cinema in 1970, with Marilyn Monroe incorrectly billed as its star.

‘Ultimately,’ Haspiel commented, ‘Hunter’s Monroe masquerade in that nudie short resulted in a box-office bonanza for those theatres daring enough to utilise the Monroe name and image in their advertisments.’